LEWISTON, N.Y. — The Alabama-Huntsville Chargers defeated Findlay Oilers 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the College Hockey America postseason tournament Thursday. The win sends UAH to a semifinal battle against Bemidji State, while the Oilers return to Ohio.
Findlay got on the board early, when a communications lapse in the Charger defense left junior right winger Chris Wyzgowski and sophomore center Nick Udovicic all alone in front of the goal against UAH junior goalie Mark Byrne. Udovicic’s first shot went into Byrne’s left leg pad; Wyzgowski followed up with a similar shot and then took the second rebound between the pad and the glove to make it an early 1-0 lead with just :47 expired in the game. Sophomore defenseman Nate Markus also received an assist on the play.
That was all the scoring Findlay could muster. UAH tied the score on a power-play goal by freshman winger Keith Rowe, who netted his eighth goal of the year on assists from freshman center Jared Ross and junior defenseman Tyler Butler at 07:24 of the first. No other goals would be scored in the period, but the Chargers dominated the shots on goal with 20 to Findlay’s 7.
The Chargers fired another 20 shots in the second period against junior goaltender Jamie VandeSpyker, netting two of them. Junior winger Karlis Zirnis put the puck in the back of the net at 7:12 with the assistance of freshman winger Craig Bushey and Butler. Junior center Jason Hawes followed Zirnis up four minutes later with another even strength goal at 11:32. Assists went out to junior defenseman Ryan Leasa and junior winger Steve Charlebois.
The Chargers came out in a defensive mode in the third, and the Oilers matched and often one-upped the intensity. Findlay poured in 10 shots in the third, to no avail. Alabama-Huntsville backed off to only eight in the final frame, choosing to meet the Oilers in the neutral zone and play smothering defense.
The plan worked, as the Oilers had to resort to pulling VandeSpyker with :34 left. Junior winger Joel Bresciani picked up the puck on a breakaway and sent it home for an empty-net goal to seal the 4-1 victory for the Chargers.
After the game, UAH coach Doug Ross said, “Any win against a Division-I program is a good win. I was concerned coming in after losing our last game to Findlay. They came out strong on the first shift today and got the early lead, but then we stepped up with 20 shots in that period.”
Findlay’s lone conference win in its last 10 regular-season CHA tilts was February 23 at home versus UAH in the final of the season series.
The Chargers face off against the Bemidji State Beavers at 3:00 ET at the Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara on Friday.
Regarding the impending matchup with Bemidji, Ross noted, “Bemidji is much improved over last year. We have confidence in ourselves, having taken three of four from them this year, but we want to carry just the right level of confidence into the game.”